Burkina Faso : Civil society condemns the military take over and calls for a return to a civil government

Press release
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FIDH and the MBDHP condemn the military takeover that occurred after President Blaise Compaoré’s resignation and his departure from Burkina Faso after a popular demonstration. Our organizations call for the respect of the Constitutional rules in order to achieve a civil political transition in Burkina Faso. Our organizations also call upon Lieutenant Colonel Issac Zida, the self-declared President and Second Chief of the Presidential Security Regiment, to respect the Constitution, refrain from further action, and to hand over power to a civil government immediately.

According to information gathered by FIDH and MBDHP, the repression by the army of the popular demonstrations caused around ten deaths, and has injured around hundred since October 28th. “The army took over, set up a curfew, and seized the major roads and strategic points of Ouagadougou, including the national radio-television stations. In less than three days, several people claimed supreme authority, causing confusion. The most urgent step is to rapidly set up a civil, constitutional, and consensual power, and to organize an election.” asserted our organizations.

On November 2nd, discussions between Lieutenant-Colonel Zida and the principal opposition leaders failed to find a solution, despite the appeal of the joint mission of the African Union, CEDEAO, and the United Nations, as well as actors of the international community.

After 27 years of exercising absolute power, a popular movement prompted President Compaoré to resign and to leave the country. The Constitution provides that the President of the National Assembly become acting President in the case of a vacancy; however, in accordance with the article 46 of the Constitution, the National Assembly was dissolved by Compaoré before he resigned. On October 31st, the Chief of Staff of the Army, the General Honoré Traoré, announced the dissolution of the National Assembly and the Government before declaring himself President. However, Lieutenant-Colonel Zida, who also declared himself President, received the support of the army, which allowed him to seize power on November 1st. [1]

On October 21st, after a Cabinet Meeting, the government announced a project of law which would review article 37 of the Constitution, in order to suppress the limitation on presidential terms, and to allow President Compaoré, in power since 1987, to run for a fifth term in 2015. On Thursday, October 30th, the bill was reviewed by the National Assembly, which was not in accordance with the international obligations of Burkina Faso, in particular the obligations of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance which, was ratified by Burkina Faso in 2010. This charter provides sanctions in the case of “any amendment or revision of the constitution or legal instruments, which is an infringement on the principles of democratic change of government” (Article 23).

This announcement has been followed by strong protests, particularly among opposition parties and civil society. On Tuesday, October 28th, a demonstration by thousands of participants was held in Ouagadougou. This ended with many confrontations between the police and demonstrators.

“My Vote Must Count”

Fifty-two elections are scheduled to be held in Africa between 2014 and 2016, including twenty-five Presidential elections. Concerns have been raised in at least six countries over proposals to review the Constitution to allow the sitting President to renew his or her mandate. To avoid manipulation, fraud, and violence resulting from shortened elections, African and international civil society have planned a joint “My Vote Must Count” campaign, engaging the public through field action and political advocacy prior to every election between now and 2016. Civil societies require governments to respect their citizens’ legitimate right to freely choose their representatives in safe, transparent, free, fair and peaceful elections.

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